Saturday, May 21, 2016

Growing Hope, Like Berries

Last week, I wrote about optimism.  As usual, my timing sucked.  
Without going into too many details, this last week has been the worst since I've returned from Japan.  Each week since returning from vacation has been increasingly difficult to get through.  I've had employees up and quit.  I've had piles of work to do.  I have equipment that is ceasing to function.  And, I've ruined a phone by dropping it into the toilet and having it, almost literally, turn into a piece of crap.  
I think my blog post last week was an effort on my part to keep a stiff upper lip.  A "fake it till you make it" sort of posting.  An exercise in optimism in and of itself.  
Maybe I should be glade I went through the exercise.  If I hadn't, I might have followed my phone down the drain.  
But I am going to continue to look on the brighter side of things, discounting the bad news, looking forward.  
I'm going to take after the eldest of my two little sisters in this regard.  And something she did when I was trying to give her some advice.  
My sister Virginia is going through her third round of therapy for cancer that was discovered almost four years ago now.  It took them a while to figure out what she had because apparently its a type of cancer normally found in another part of the body which developed in her lungs.  The cancer hospital where she's been getting treatment told her that there has only been one other case like hers in the last sixty years.  
They tried removing half of one of her lungs to stop it.  Then they gave her radiation, a particularly strong and focused form of this therapy.  When it came back again, they gave her intravenous chemo, a variety also known for its strength.  When it came back yet again, and spread to other parts of her body, they started her on a form of oral chemo therapy.  One that originally came with a $3,000 a month co-pay.  
Fortunately, the hospital was able to get the manufacturer to cut a deal and send her the medication directly for only $25 a month.  
Throughout all of this my sister has been pretty straightforward and upbeat.  Talking to her you wouldn't know that she's been sick.  She's very matter of fact about it all.  It's something she has to deal with, a part of her life.  
When I visited her back in March, she told me that the chemo medication she's taking has taken away most of her sense of taste.  She can feel the texture of the food she's eating, but most of it has no taste to it.  
This struck me as a ghastly side effect, one about which I had never heard anything before.  When I asked her what she did about it, she told me that when she eats something she used to like she remembers what it is supposed to taste like and enjoys it that way.  
But the most profound thing she's done in all this came in response to some advice I was trying to give her.  
As the weeks and months have gone by, I've become better able to talk to her about her cancer and what she's going through.  I've tried to give her encouragement and advice.  Ask the doctor about this.  Stay in shape.  Stay strong.  Keep up your health.  During one phone conversations, I told her about how I eat a pint of blueberries a week, a practice I started after hearing someone on the radio talk about how blueberries were shown to give the body resistance to several forms of cancer.  
"Yeah...  The doctor, or scientist, I forget...  He said that the entire digestive track, from mouth to colon, is protected against cancer from the substance that makes blueberries blue."  I remembered at this point that her tumors were in her chest and hip and lymph nodes.  "But, uh...  I'm sure that they probably provide benefits to other parts of the body, too."  
"Huh.  I didn't know that.  I'll have to try eating some."  
"A pint a week.  That's what he said.  It's what I do."  
"I'll have to get some and give it a try."  
I hung up the phone, feeling good that something I had offered her might help her in some way.  
But she didn't go to the store and buy a pint of blueberries like I expected.  Instead, she bought this...

It's a blueberry bush.  She posted the photo on Facebook after she bought it.  She is going tend the bush, raising it up so it can grow blueberries for her to eat.  
At first, I was speechless.  Then, I was humbled.  I had tried to give her some advice, to help her get better.  To give her some hope.  To provide a small ally in her fight against the thing inside her.  Instead, she gave me an example of what it means to look forward.  What it means to be hopeful in a very special way.  
I'm going to do what I can to remain optimistic about the small, petty little problems in my life.  I hope its something that runs in my family.  


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